The Bulgari Tadao Ando Serpenti explores the seasons with snakeskin stone marquetry The Bulgari Tadao Ando Serpenti explores the seasons with snakeskin stone marquetry

The Bulgari Tadao Ando Serpenti explores the seasons with snakeskin stone marquetry

Buffy Acacia

Some artistic collaborations make perfect sense, but on paper, Bulgari working with Tadao Ando is a bit wild. The Japanese ex-boxer-turned-self-taught-architect has a legendary legacy and signature style. He opts for simplistic shapes that draw from and compliment the natural landscapes in which they’re built, despite seeming so brutalist at first glance with their bare concrete and glass facades. That’s quite a drastic departure from the opulent and grand architecture of ancient Rome, from which Bulgari takes a lot of its inspiration. And yet, their collaborations are always beautiful. The latest is this mesmerising series of Bulgari Serpenti watches with stone and mother-of-pearl dials.

The dials

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 21

Tadao Ando’s connection with nature may be more philosophical than visual in regard to his architecture, however, it’s far more literal with the Serpenti. There are four references, each of them representing one of the major seasons. But a mere colour and texture aren’t quite enough for the natural tie-ins. Stone marquetry has been employed to create a scale-like mosaic, emulating the look of snakeskin. Using materials that develop naturally in a natural pattern doubles down on that connection, making for quite a compelling dial.

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 7

Summer is represented by a sparkling green aventurine. This isn’t the same starry aventurine which is made from metal dust dispersed in glass, but rather the natural stone which is a form of quartzite. The glimmering is an effect that comes from its mineral inclusions, amplified by the stone’s slight translucency. With Autumn or Fall comes the changing of the leaves, a season that is evoked wonderfully by the tiger’s eye. The palette of browns is enhanced by an optical reflectance known as chatoyancy, which gives it incredible depth and a mystical quality. Both Spring and Winter have been depicted with the help of mother-of-pearl, however, they’re two different tones. A pink shell with highlights of rosy orange and silky grey is used for Spring, referencing the Japanese cherry blossoms. The white mother-of-pearl is reserved for Winter, exploring tones of grey, blue, and silver with a satin-like shimmer.

The case

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 13

The Serpenti Tubogas has been a Bulgari staple since the 1940s, and it’s been pretty much impossible to one-up. The concept of snake-themed jewellery wrapping around an arm is absolutely ancient, but using a flexible bracelet to achieve the same idea with a wristwatch is so simple it’s genius. There is a risk of discomfort if your wrist is a bit too flatly-profiled or large, but for those it does fit well, it wears like a dream. The “head” of the watch is 35mm in diameter, with smooth, polished edges and a bezel set with diamonds.

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 4

Each of the different seasons has its own metal formation. Summer is bright and cheery with a two-tone arrangement of stainless steel and 18k yellow gold. The Autumn version is more nostalgic and luxurious, cased entirely in warm-toned 18k rose gold. Winter clings to its cold and crisp temperatures, opting for an entirely steel case. This also makes it the most affordable watch of the bunch by a considerable margin. Finally, the Spring reference brings back some colourful optimism with a two-tone display of steel and 18k rose gold. There will be a 20-piece edition of the four watches in one box set, but the more fun way of collecting them is one at a time, as they will be released with the turning of the seasons throughout 2024.

The movement

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 18

Bulgari may have entered the realm of high-end watchmaking with watches like the early Bulgari-branded Daniel Roth models, but the Tadao Ando Serpenti is much closer to its jewellery ranges. An hour and a minute hand is all you need to keep track of time, and anything further would likely just be a distraction from the artfully crafted dials. All of these references use quartz movements, eliminating the need for winding and constant time setting, and also provide reliable accuracy for years, if not decades, to come. The solid casebacks feature an engraving of Tadao Ando’s signature, as well as a scannable QR code for more information about your watch.

The verdict

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 15

If you’re looking specifically for a watch that is reminiscent of the architectural works of Tadao Ando, I would say that his previous collaborations with Bulgari are more in that style. However, the new Serpenti models still capture his creative essence and bond with natural ideas. Above all, they’re captivating takes on the snake theme which makes the Serpenti one of the ultimate dress watches, capitalising on the mythical seduction of the reptile.

Bulgari x Tadao Ando Serpenti pricing and availability

Bulgari Serpenti Tadao Ando 23

The Bulgari x Tadao Ando Serpenti watches will be released over the next year. Summer will be available from June, Autumn from August, Winter from October, and Spring from March 2025. There will also be a 20-piece limited edition box set of all four watches. Price: CHF 10,400 (Winter), CHF 15,400 (Spring), CHF 15,700 (Summer), CHF 39,000 (Autumn). 

Brand Bulgari
Model Tadao Ando Serpenti
Reference Number 104002 (Summer short)
104003 (Autumn short)
104004 (Winter short) / 104140 (Winter long)
104007 (Spring short) / 104141 (Spring long)
Case Dimensions 35mm (D)
Case Material Two-tone 18k yellow gold and stainless steel (Summer)
Solid 18k rose gold (Autumn)
Solid stainless steel (Winter)
Two-tone 18k rose gold and stainless steel (Spring)
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Green aventurine mosaic (Summer)
Tiger’s eye mosaic (Autumn)
White mother of pearl (Winter)
Pink mother of pearl (Spring)
Strap(s) Tubogas single-twist bracelet
Movement Swiss quartz
Power Reserve Battery life
Functions Hours, minutes
Availability Seasonal according to the model, 20-piece run of the box set
Price CHF 15,700 (Summer)
CHF 39,000 (Autumn)
CHF 10,400 (Winter)
CHF 15,400 (Spring)